Given that music styles and the appreciation thereof tend to run in intertwined cycles, it’s not surprising to occasionally witness when a musician comes full circle with their artistic preferences and-or stylistic pursuits. Right now, and perhaps it’s even fair to say things have been moving in this direction for a while, singer-songwriter, Jewel, seems to be having such a moment with the unveiling of new single, “No More Tears.”
The first new music from the Alaskan songwriter since 2015, the emotional gravity of “No More Tears” is swift descend with both the dynamically reserved piano chords and the lyrics – even from the very first simile-sewn line: “Heartbreak is like the weather ravaging my soul.” Here, without even getting to the underlying reason Jewel wrote this song, the delicate but natural sonic quality of “No More Tears” easily slides next to thoughts of Kilcher’s critically acclaimed early work – from the likes of 1995’s Pieces of You (Atlantic Records)and 1998’s Spirit (Atlantic Records). What makes this flashback of sorts to Jewel’s 90s days so salient in this moment, is the fact that the aforementioned buildup really began with 2015’s Picking up the Pieces (Sugar Hill Records), wherein fans are told the LP is a “bookend” to the Diamond certified debut.
Here is where the idea of full circle closure gets a somewhat formal acknowledgement. However, with Jewel releasing her self-reflective book Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story in that same week as Picking up the Pieces,and the eventual emergence of a thematically connected digital resource, there’s an appreciable sense of genuine embrace by Jewel, of liberated, purpose-driven creativity that at times in Jewel’s career – whether for experimentation or personal catharsis – took a backseat to the currents of the music industry. Now “No More Tears” expands this solidification of Jewel’s pursuit of social awareness through music and with a purpose separate from Jewel’s founding discography, it’s another reinforcement of the idea that Jewel isn’t confining what she does, who she connects with, or what messages she supports, to what is most prevalent in trending music circles.
A single destined to serve as a prominent sonic support to 2020 documentary Lost in America, “No More Tears” is a heavily contrasting slice of faith, optimism, and gratitude against a film that’s intent on unabashedly exploring homelessness in the U.S., as well as some of the most heartbreaking and disturbing problems contributing to it: broken foster care systems, casting out of LGBTQIA+ youth, and sex trafficking. Poetically and melodically speaking, this kind of support-minded songwriting isn’t surprising from Jewel, given the musically stark but poetic and metaphoric character of a hit like Spiritsingle,“Hands.” The difference here is in the timing, the longevity and transformations of Jewel’s career, and the stakes. This isn’t a song contemplating the thought of things looking up amidst a generally less than ideal moment in time. “No More Tears” is not only a creative result of direct inspiration from people Jewel met working on the film (she’s executive producer) but also an expressive outlet for reflecting on her own time living homeless just a few years before her career would kick off with Pieces of You.It taps into a first hand desire, a unified aspiration of everyone who is touched by homelessness: to see the light at the end of the tunnel of homelessness for everyone.
Heartbreak is like the weather ravaging my soul
But I know it moves on
Storms are followed by the most beautiful blue skies
And I will keep carrying on.
They say God only gives you what you’re strong enough to handle
Well I must be pretty god damn strong
But the will to survive is acknowledging I am alive
And I will keep traveling on
– Lyrics from “No More Tears”
The song isn’t compositionally complicated, the instrumentation is sparse, and Jewel isn’t looking to turn heads with a flurry of linguistic tongue twisters. From an industry standpoint and at a distance, this piece of music could just appear to be another piece of revisionist-reboot work – an effort to stoke the fires of nostalgia and nothing more. But once one sees the full picture of what Jewel has done with her time over the years, to see how she has worked to share her life experiences and the emotional insights she’s gained from them in ways that don’t strictly involve penning a single or an EP, suddenly the simplistic idea of revisionist folk becomes shortsighted and the wider embrace comes into view.
The heartfelt poetry, vulnerable vocal tone, and comforting imagery Jewel so effortlessly wrote with in the past has since been channeled into pursuits that show Jewel now as an artistic humanitarian rather than an artistic simply telling human stories. The concepts seem interchangeable but the difference is poignant. Remembering back to Jewel’s shocking folk departure LP, 0304 (Atlantic Records, 2003), many fans and critics both, saw the dance-centric album as one that served as a statement of mockery against the trends and unwavering expectations of the music business. Now years later, Jewel has returned to her roots but also changed her priorities. Music fits into the overall equation of Jewel’s work at a different level and the result ultimately led her to the most clever outcome of all: “No More Tears” reignites the flames of Jewel’s beloved organic and poetic folk music, while being highlighted alongside work that in no way conforms to what’s cool, appealing, or on track to become popular.
“No More Tears” is Jewel having her authentic folk cake, eating it, and sharing it with the homeless youth of the nation too.
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